Most credit cards come with an expiration date printed on the face of the card alongside the credit card account numbers. If you keep your account open, you’ll usually get a new card in the mail before your previous card expires. Still, that leaves the question of what to do with old credit cards.
Once you get your new credit card, or if you’ve decided to close your account, you’ll want to be careful about what to do with your expired credit card. There are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you keep your financial information safe.
Things to Do With an Old or Expired Credit Card
If you have a credit card that’s closed or has passed its credit card expiration date, here are some options to consider as you decide what to do with the card.
Shredding Your Credit Cards
The simplest thing you can do after closing a credit card is to shred it. Most modern shredders have the ability to shred plastic credit cards in addition to paper. If you don’t have a shredder, you can cut your card into multiple pieces with scissors.
You might consider putting each piece of your card in a different trash can or trash bag. This will minimize the chance that someone might be able to reconstruct your full account number.
Disposing of Metal Credit Cards
It gets a little more complicated if you’re disposing of a metal credit card. Most retail shredders will not be able to handle shredding a metal credit card. If you have an expired metal credit card, you can try the following:
• Cutting it up with tin snips
• Turning it in at a physical bank branch
• Sending it back via certified mail to your credit card issuer
Contacting Expired Credit Card Hobbyists
Believe it or not, there are people that collect old credit cards as a hobby. They do it as part of the history of credit cards. While you might not feel comfortable having your credit card and account information in the hands of someone else, if you do, there may be someone who would want to have it.
Just keep in mind that while there are some old or historical cards that have actual value as collectibles, most current credit cards won’t be worth anything to a collector.
Deactivating Magnetic Strips and Chips
As part of the process of destroying a credit card that’s past its credit card expiration date, it’s not just the account number that you’ll need to take care of. Most credit cards have either a magnetic strip or an EMV chip (or both) that contain account information that you’ll need to make sure is destroyed.
If you have a contactless credit card, remember that it also contains potentially sensitive information.
Keeping Your Card Out Of The Recycling Bin
Above all else, don’t just throw your card in the recycling bin. While most credit cards are plastic, that doesn’t mean they can be recycled as-is. Check with your local trash or recycling authority to see if credit cards can be recycled. Even if your card can be recycled, it’s not a great idea to toss it in the recycling bin whole due to security risks.
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Things to Do Before You Close Your Credit Card Account
It can be difficult to know when to cancel a credit card due to the implications it can have for your credit score. Especially if the account you’re thinking about closing is one of your older ones, it can impact the length of your credit history. As this is a factor that goes into determining your credit score, it could cause your score to drop.
So before closing your credit card account, consider the following options first.
Downgrade Your Card
Instead of closing your credit card account, you might consider downgrading your account to a different type of credit card. Most credit card issuers have a variety of different cards, so you might find one that’s a better fit for you. Plus, keeping your account open can help maintain your average age of accounts.
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Upgrade to an Unsecured Card
If you currently have a secured credit card, you can move from a secured card to an unsecured credit card rather than simply closing out your account.
A secured credit card can make sense if you have a limited credit history or are working on rebuilding your credit history. But once you have an established history of adhering to credit card rules like making on-time payments, you may be able to qualify for an unsecured card.
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Keep Your Card for Small Purchases
It may make sense for you to keep your credit card and use it to make small purchases here and there, especially if it doesn’t have an annual fee. Keeping a credit card open can help you maintain your average age of accounts, especially if the card is one of your older ones.
Just keep in mind that if you do decide to keep it open, you may want to make occasional small purchases on it. Otherwise, your credit card issuer may close it for inactivity.
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If you have an old or expired credit card, it’s important to take the necessary steps to keep your financial information safe. In most cases, it’s a good idea to shred your expired card so that nobody can access your information. You might also just keep your credit card account open to avoid lowering your average age of credit accounts.
If you’re in the market for a new card, you might consider a cash-back rewards credit card like SoFi’s credit card. If you get a credit card with SoFi, you can earn unlimited cash-back rewards, which you can use to invest in fractional shares, apply as a statement credit, or meet other financial goals you might have, like paying down eligible SoFi debt.
Can an expired credit card be charged?
In most cases, if you try to make a purchase after your credit card’s expiration date, it will be declined. Keep in mind, though, that merchants may continue to charge a card after its expiration date if you have it set up for recurring charges. Check with any merchants where you have recurring charges to see how this might affect you.
Can I cancel a credit card online?
Yes, in most cases you do have the ability to cancel a credit card online. You could do so through your online account or possibly by using a chat feature on the card issuer’s website. If you’re not able to cancel your credit card online, you may have to call the customer service number on the back of your card to cancel your card.
What should I do before canceling a credit card?
Knowing when to cancel a credit card is a matter of balancing a variety of different factors. Before canceling a credit card, make sure that it won’t drastically affect your credit score. You’ll also want to contact any merchants where you have recurring charges to update your account information. That will ensure that you don’t have any interruption in service.
Photo credit: iStock/dzika_mrowka
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